GUI refutes sectarian comments
The chairman of the Ulster branch of the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) has criticised two leading Northern Irish politicians for stating that sectarian prejudice is rife in the country’s golf clubs.
Violence as a result of religious sectarianism has been in sharp decline in the country for over a decade, but many cultural commentators believe some sections of the population still harbour prejudiced views.
During a Community Relations Week conference, the Democratic Unionist Party’s Jonathan Bell MLA, a junior minister in the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, said: “Many communities may not paint their kerb stones or put out flags, but scratch the surface and you find the prejudice and the hate joked about in golf clubs or over dinner parties.”
Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson MEP echoed those views. “There’s attitudes among middle class society in the golf clubs that Jonathan referred to, and elsewhere. Talked about behind closed doors, the unspoken and hidden sectarian comments, which we may not hear about, are doing absolute fundamental damage to our society.”
The GUI’s Peter Sinclair has refuted the suggestions.
“I completely and utterly disagree with what the two ministers have said,” he said.
“We represent a very broad section of the community irrespective of religion and class and we all get on extremely well.
“Discrimination has never been an issue in our sport and I hope it never will.”
Both Bell and Anderson have now apologised for their comments, with Mr Bell stating that, through the likes of Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, three Northern Irish golfers who have all won a Major within the last two years, “golf is bringing groups together”.